What one meal a day looks like in African conflict zone

The British Red Cross has commissioned photographer Chris de Bode to create a set of images that vividly illustrate just how little food the people of the Lake Chad region are currently surviving on

A chipped bowl containing a few grains of rice and some dried beans. The extreme north of Cameroon is suffering a food shortage exacerbated by climate change and conflict. Photo: Chris de Bode/ British Red Cross

According to the British Red Cross, the unfolding catastrophe in the Lake Chad region is affecting 9.2 million people across Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. The crisis is a result of a combination of populations displaced by conflict, drought and government security policies that have restricted the ability of local people to grow food.

A plate of ground red maize, surrounded by a green sauce made from mango leaves. It has been prepared by Palta Ali, 30, who will share this meal with her two youngest children but doesn’t have enough food for her two teenage children. Chris de Bode/ British Red Cross

Many people are surviving on one meal per day (if that), but what those means consist of falls a long way short of western norms.

Photographer Chris de Bode has brought home the scale of the hardship being endured by local people via a set of simple images. Using an ‘igloo studio’ in the field, de Bode shot food items and meals. “I was inspired by Instagram food bloggers,” he says. “I was humbled by the pride people took in preparing their food and their heart-breaking daily fight just to survive. While we are all connected through our need for food to survive, it can sometimes be difficult for people to engage with crises in other parts of the world. I wanted to tell their stories in a different way and illustrate the idea of what one meal a day really looks like.”

A public exhibition of the images, One Meal a Day: the Lake Chad crisis in pictures, will be at the courtyard at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London WC2, from May 22 – June 12. The British Red Cross Lake Chad Crisis Appeal page can be found here

A small bag of niebe beans (black-eyed peas) tucked into a crack in a wall at the home of Ache, an 80 year old grandmother living with her four daughters and their children in their small rented home. Ache’s village was attacked in the night and all the men in their family were taken away or killed. They now beg to try and gather enough for one meal a day, but sometimes even that is not possible. Chris de Bode/ British Red Cross
A half-eaten meal of ground red maize, white rice and crushed mango leaves. This will be the only food Ramata Modou, 58, and her six children will eat today. The meal was gathered by begging from house to house in a village near the IDP camp for women and children where they live and where Ramata is the appointed leader. Chris de Bode/ British Red Cross
An old sardine tin that siblings Aichadou, 6, and Ibrahim, 4, found in a rubbish dump and now play with as part of their pretend kitchen. Chris de Bode/ British Red Cross

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